Analytical and Problem-Solving Skills are Important but Recruiters’ Focus on Leadership-Skills for Recruiting First-Level Executives
Asish K Bhattacharyya
Reading time: 10 minutes
Although Peter Drucker, who is considered to be the first Management Guru and who is still the widely read author in management, argued in 1954 that that management subsumes leadership. In 1970s, a debate on whether management skills are different from leadership skills surfaced in management literature. The debate has lost relevance. Now recruiters are looking for leadership skills while recruiting first-level executives.
Peter Drucker in his book, The Practice of Management (published in 1954), describes the jobs of the management. According to him, management has three jobs – managing a business, managing managers and managing workers and work. Although those three jobs can be discussed separately, they are integrated, and managers cannot separate them in discharging their responsibilities on daily basis. According to Drucker, managing business means ‘managing by objectives’, because managers’ performance is measured against objectives they set for themselves or set by others. Management is a practice – it is a blend of science and art. Manager has to act and perform by applying her knowledge and skills to achieve the desired results. ‘Manage managers’ implies making human and material resources productive to achieve the objectives. ‘Managing worker and work’ implies that manager has to ensure that workers perform at their full potential and make material resources productive. The term worker covers a whole range of employees - unskilled to CEO. To quote Drucker, “It implies consideration of the human being as a resource – that is, as something having peculiar psychological properties, abilities and limitations that require the same amount of engineering attention as the properties of any other resource, e.g., copper. It implies also consideration of the human resource as human beings having, unlike any other resource, personality, citizenship, and thus requiring motivation, participation, satisfaction, incentives and rewards, leadership, status and function.”
Drucker says that the management must consider both present and the long-term future. He says, “management – almost alone-has to live always in both present and future”. He further says, “management must keep the enterprise successful and profitable in the present – or else there will be no enterprise left to enjoy the future. It must simultaneously make the enterprise capable of growing and prospering, or at least surviving in the future – otherwise it has fallen down on its responsibility of keeping resources productive and unimpaired, has destroyed capital”.
Managers allocate the total time and attention span available to them to the three separate but integrated jobs depending on their job profile and position that they occupy in the organisation hierarchy.
John B Kotter in an article entitled, “What leaders really do’ published in Harvard Business Review (first published in 1990 and reprinted in HBR December 2001) explains the difference between leadership and management. According to Kotter, the following are the differences:
· Management is about coping with complexity. It brings a degree of order and consistency in key dimensions of a large business. Leadership is about coping with change. In a dynamic business environment business firms survive and grow by managing changes in the internal and external contexts and not merely by managing complexity.
· Both managing complexity and managing change requires three activities - deciding actions required, creating networks of people and relationships in order to accomplish the agenda and ensuring that those people actually effectively and efficiently perform tasks assigned to them. However, leadership require accomplishing those three activities differently from the way management accomplishes them.
· Managing complexity requires planning and control, including allocation of resources, for a short period, say for one year. Managing change requires developing a vision for distant future and formulating strategy for achieving the same.
· Implementing the plan requires creating the right organisation structure, designing job profiles, assigning jobs to right individuals, communicating plans to those individuals, delegating powers to them and monitoring their performance. Planning and control also require monitoring overall implementation of the plan and taking corrective actions based on feedback. Achieving vision requires aligning people, that is, creating coalition of individuals who understand the vision and committed to achieving the same.
HBR reprinted the article in 2001, because even at that time most companies in U.S.A. lacked focus on the leadership component of management. They focused too much on planning (including long-term planning, also called corporate planning, say for five years), analysis and solving problems, and control. They recruited candidates at executive positions who demonstrated analytical and problem-solving skills. However, companies were finding that those two skills were inadequate to cope with rapid changes in the external contexts. When searched for managers for leadership skills for senior management positions, they found it difficult to find right individuals, as most companies rewarded managers with analytical and problem-solving skills. Organisation culture was such that they produced leaders with high IQ, but low leadership skills.
Managers at every level should have leadership skills and an organisation culture should be created to encourage executive to acquire those leadership skills (rather, discover those skills within) and reward executives having leadership skills.
Things have changed since then. Even in India companies are recruiting individuals with high leadership skills in entry-level executive positions and giving higher responsibilities to only those who demonstrate application of those skills.